Road Race for Kids Kicks Off Marathon Week

On October 29, kids competed in races in Central Park organized by the New York Road Runners. 

“Runners, on your mark, get set....” At the sound of the beep, hundreds of young runners set off on a 1.5-mile course in New York City’s rainy Central Park. The October 29 competition was hosted by the New York Road Runners (NYRR). A total of 223 athletes between the ages of 12 and 18 crossed the finish line.

The Rising NYRR Kids Kickoff invited individuals between the ages of 2 and 18, including competitors in wheelchairs, to take part in a series of races. Nearly 1,000 kids signed up to participate. I ran in an untimed race for entrants under the age of 12. There also were shorter races for younger attendees.

The Kickoff was a debut event for the NYRR. The group is seeking to get more young people involved in the sport of running. 

After the races, the rain subsided. Participants and their families and friends then got a chance to enjoy music, refreshments, and games.

The festivities marked the start of Marathon Week in New York City. The annual competition, a grueling 26-plus miles, took place on November 5. First held in 1970, the race draws hundreds of thousands of competitors and spectators from around the world. 


Mika at the Central Park event with NYRR CEO Rob Simmelkjaer


NYRR is a nonprofit organization that began as a running club in 1956. The group’s mission is to inspire runners of all abilities to stay active and enjoy the sport together. Each year, NYRR hosts about 40 races for adults and 50 races for young people.

“New York Road Runners is really the premier race organizer in the world,” said Rob Simmelkjaer, NYRR’s chief executive officer. “We put on more races than any other organization in the world. We [also have] programs like Rising New York Road Runners to get kids running in schools.” 

Rising NYRR, a youth program, serves more than 137,000 kids nationwide and nearly 60,000 in New York City.  The free program aims to create happy and healthy life-long athletes.


Young athletes enjoy the Rising NYRR Kids Kickoff.


NYRR also sponsors Rising NYRR Youth Ambassadors. The program gives running enthusiasts in grades 4 through 12 an opportunity to sharpen their leadership and public-speaking skills. 

Sara Alexander, 13, participates in the program. When asked her advice for kids who want to try running, she suggested finding a running buddy.

“I think it’s good inspiration, and it helps you train,” she said. “You can motivate your friend, and your friend can motivate you. It’s a great opportunity for you to bond and work out.”

NYRR officials hope to make the pre-marathon Kickoff an annual event in Central Park. Until then, if you’d like to take up running, look for a race in your area. Simmelkjaer said that confronting the sport’s challenges brings huge rewards.

“Running can be really hard when you start out because you’re not used to it,” he said. “It’s so tiring, and it feels like so much work. But if you stick with it, you’ll get better, you’ll feel better, and you’ll realize that it’s something you can do for your whole life.”

Top and bottom photos courtesy of NYRR; middle photo courtesy of the author